Suspect Arrested Nearly 30 Years After Teen Dancer Strangled Outside High School

Sarah Yarborough was 16 when she was last seen alive in 1991.
King County Sheriff's Office

A decades-old cold case may be heating back up with the arrest of a man nearly 30 years after a teen dancer was found strangled outside her Washington high school.

Sarah Yarborough was last seen alive early on Dec. 14 1991. The 16-year-old was at Federal Way High School with her drill team for a competition. But by 9 a.m. that morning, two boys saw a man leave a bushy area near the school and then noticed Sarah's body, still in her drill uniform.

Police determined she had been strangled with her stockings. But despite plenty of DNA evidence, a suspect could not be tracked down. Until now.

Officials working on the case were able to use DNA and genetic genealogy to zero in on a certain pair of brothers. One brother had previously been convicted and had his DNA entered into the national database. If his DNA hadn't matched Sarah's case before, he wouldn't be the suspect police were still looking for.

So officials looked at the second brother, who had served time for an attempted rape in 1983 but never had his DNA put in the national database. When his DNA was compared to the evidence from Sarah's death, it was a match.

“Although Sarah’s mother lost hope from time to time, our detectives never did,” King County Sheriff Mitzi Johnknecht said in a Facebook post. “They followed every lead (4,000 tips), turned every corner on the trail and patiently waited until DNA technology and genealogy tracing were advanced enough to make a critical connection than led to a DNA match.”

Patrick Nicholas, 55, was arrested Wednesday on first-degree murder. He does not yet have a defense attorney, ABC News reported, and his arraignment is set for Oct. 17.

Sarah's mom, Laura Yarborough, thanked detectives for continuing to see justice for her daughter.

"If you're going to do something heinous, don't do it here. Because they'll come to get you," Yarborough said.

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